Mystic River (2003) Poster

(2003)

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spoiler.who really directed the ending?
expe6727 February 2004
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILER ALERT a very good movie all the way through the 2 hours plus...until the killing of tom robbins's character.all he had to say was "let me take you where i threw the child-molestor's body".if he w a n t e d to die,then that was not made clear.after that, we don't see any confusion or grief in sean penn's face when he hears they found the real murderers.the discussion with kevin bacon is so underplayed,like they do not really care or they are relieved the movie ended.what about arresting him?or okay if he doesn't want to, what about bacon's partner laurence fishburne?he was the driving force trying to find the murderer and questioning bacon's priorities.what happened to him?he disappears leaving sean penn's character almost smiling at the end.where is the grief for killing his friend or for his daughter?and laura linney?i am sorry for what they did to you.such a talented actress.but who could pull it off, the monologue she gives at the end when we do not know anything about her character and what made her react like this.all the psychological journey we are experiencing through out the movie from a director who seems to value the human condition prepares us for a climax,a purge (of some kind at least).instead, we are left with an ending with full of questions and more important with a "who cares" mentality that destroys the prior two hours.it could have been a great movie.will the dvd have an alternative ending?(not a "good" one necessarily,but a better one).just joking.i am sorry for any grammar errors but english is not my first language.but movies are.
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8/10
Second time around
Antagonisten8 November 2005
I must admit that when i watched this movie for the first time i didn't really think that much of it. Sure the acting was amazing, but that was expected. But then something happened. I got a chance to read the book by Dennis Lehane and suddenly all the pieces fell into place. I watched the movie again and this time it was amazing.

I don't know how i should interpret how my feelings toward this movie changed after reading the book. Is it a good adaptation if i like it more after reading the book? Should a movie stand so well on it's own merits that the book is not necessary? I don't know myself, all i know is that it all became so much clearer after reading the book.

First of all the acting was amazing even the first time around. But still, after reading the book it was as if the characters gained one more level of depth. I have always felt that Tim Robbins is the true gem in this movie. His pained portrayal of the lost soul Dave Boyle is pure magic, seldom has an Oscar been so well deserved. Sean Penn is predictably great in his portrayal of Jimmy Markum. It's a difficult character, a person you really don't know what to think about. In one respect he is a worried father, in another respect he is a cold-blooded man with few things to like about him. The rest of the cast is solid, with Kevin Bacon the brightest star among them.

When it comes to the plot itself this was where much was changed from reading the book. The trick is not to watch this as a crime-drama. Rather it's a movie about behavioral patterns, about humans. What they are capable of and what dictates their actions. There are huge amounts of sadness and melancholy to this story. Of people unable to break out of the path it seems life has chosen for them. This i think didn't really break through to me that well when i watched the movie for the first time. But the book is much more clear on this and when i watched the movie again i saw it there as well.

In the end this is a triumph of two things really. First the great acting of some of the finest actors in Hollywood today, second the sensitive and thoughtful directing of Clint Eastwood. He manages to bring out Dennis Lehanes story in a way that is so understated and minimalistic at times i didn't even catch on the first time around. But if i look closely all the elements are there and it is truly a great adaptation as well as a great movie.
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Falls sort of greatness but superb nonetheless
Buddy-5130 November 2004
Lovers of great acting had best not pass up 'Mystic River,' Clint Eastwood's powerful, award-laden adaptation of Dennis Lehane's best-selling novel. Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon play three working class Bostonians forever bound together by a mutual childhood tragedy that has since gone on to define the kind of people they've become and the kind of lives they've led. The film begins with a brief prologue as we see the three youngsters - Jimmy, Sean and Dave - out playing in the street one day, when they are confronted by a pedophile who, posing as a policeman, tricks one of them, Dave, into getting into the car with him and another man. Fast forward to the present as we pick up the trio as grown men who have, for all intents and purposes, gone their separate ways. Penn is Jimmy Markum, a former petty thief who spent two years in the slammer but who has since turned straight and now owns a neighborhood liquor store. When Jimmy's daughter from his first marriage turns up murdered, the three men's lives intersect in ways they could never have imagined. Bacon is Sean Divine, a homicide detective assigned to the case, and Robbins is Dave Boyle, a sporadically employed man who may be a prime suspect in the murder. Dave still lives with the trauma of that earlier soul-shattering experience, while Jimmy and Sean wrestle with why they managed to escape the cruel finger of fate that pointed so grimly at their hapless playmate. The film is about how the events of our early lives (and, in the case of Jimmy, it doesn't stop at this one incident) can end up coming back to haunt us later down the road.

The Brian Helgeland screenplay makes the pain that each of these men experiences vivid and palpable. The grief Jimmy feels over the loss of his beloved child, the psychological torment Dave suffers as a result of his abuse, and the bewilderment and loneliness Sean experiences from a failed marriage all become integral to this dark tale of bitterness, revenge and attempted healing. At times, we do find ourselves wishing that the script would concentrate less on the details of the murder investigation and more on the inner workings of the three main characters. Too often we feel as if we are only scratching the surface of the roiling psychological torment taking place deep in the bowels of these men. The plotting, particularly towards the end, often feels more contrived than it needs to be, with heavy-handed ironies and obtruding parallelisms that don't seem to know when to leave well enough alone. Laura Linney, as Jimmy's second wife, has a key Lady Macbeth moment late in the film that might have been effective had we been more fully prepared for it and had her character been more thoroughly developed throughout the course of the film. As it is, the scene seems to come out of nowhere and leaves us both bewildered and hanging.

Still, these are minor quibbles when it comes to a movie as finely acted and directed as this one is. Penn hits all the right notes as a man facing the worst experience life could possibly throw at a person - the murder of one's child - trying to make sense of a tragedy that defies any rational explanation. Robbins beautifully underplays the role of a man scarred forever by what happened to him in his youth, now endeavoring to function as an adult when he was robbed of any semblance of a childhood. Bacon is excellent as the man who attempts to put all the pieces together, not only of the case but of the shattered lives he and his two buddies have been living all these years, and Marcia Gay Harden is outstanding as Dave's loving wife who struggles with what is perhaps the greatest moral dilemma faced by any character in the movie. Linney, Lawrence Fishburne and Tom Guiry offer fine supporting performances.

As director, Eastwood allows his superb cast ample time to develop their characters, never hurrying the proceedings along and always allowing the conversations to play themselves out. He recognizes the quality of the material and feels no need to gussy it up with self-conscious camera angles or fancy editing. He also uses the bleak settings of blue collar Boston as an effective backdrop to the stark, chilly tale he is telling.

Perhaps it is just an odd coincidence that three of the very best movies of 2003 - '21 Grams,' 'The House of Sand and Fog' and 'Mystic River' - all suffer from the same tendency on the part of the filmmakers to move away from reality and towards melodrama and contrivance in the final act. Of the three, '21 Grams' and 'The House of Sand and Fog' are harmed less by this than 'Mystic River' because they have a somewhat deeper thematic base and richer character development than does the Eastwood film. Still, 'Mystic River' is a mighty impressive achievement for those who made it and a rich, memorable experience for those who see it.
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5/10
Am I the only one who thinks this movie sends a terrible message?
metamerc22 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Call me simple, but I just watched Mystic River for the first time last night and it appears to condone the killing of the character played by Tim Robbins in a sort of, "Well, he's been all messed up since he was raped and molested as kid, anyway, so doing him in does everyone - especially him - a big favor." Excuse me, but I think that's a terribly brutal message to send. Yes, physical and emotional abuse can cause untold damage, but there are ways for people to seek out treatment through therapy.

The best thing about this film is how most everyone kind of 'expects' the Tim Robbins character to be found guilty and is surprised in the end. The fact that the writer makes 'Dave' actually complicit and responsible for _another_ murder does not wash with me as a sort of way of saying 'Well, he deserved what he had coming to him' as is insidiously and mischievously implied. It seems like a cop-out to me.

The bottom line is that Sean Penn's character brutally murders his childhood friend based on hearsay and the third friend, played by Kevin Bacon, suggests he will just look the other way even though it's pretty clear he knows Penn did it. And he's a cop!

So what the f*ck is going on with the little speech Penn's character's wife gives at the end of the film? "You could be the king of this town?" Maybe true, but also clear is the fact that he's going to be eaten by his demons in the process.

And all of this is OK? Watching the freaking parade stand murderers and friends side by side? Being guilty of murder is OK as long as you atone for it? Let's put our attention and hopes on the next generation?

Am I the only one to find this to be a bunch of crap?
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9/10
Character Study in a Minor Key.
nycritic23 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Most murder mysteries go the way of unleashing tension and a mounting sense of suspense and danger as the plot originating from the murder in itself reveals red herrings and a more sinister plot underneath just waiting to be discovered.

Clint Eastwood's thriller goes a completely different direction: while the identity of the killer is still at the center of the story and is revealed in almost surprising -- but plausible -- sequence, this is more a powerful character study of three childhood friends joined together by the very horror of a life extinguished. All three actors make their roles their own -- Sean Penn is quietly intense and devastated, Tim Robbins is the ultimate broken man through circumstances not of his control who still relives his own tragedy every day, and Kevin Bacon plays a stoic detective who also has some relationship issues of his own.

If there's one weakness in the movie it's the way the women are written. While Marcia Gay Harden fares better in her portrayal of a housewife who discovers what she believes to be a deadly secret involving her husband (Tim Robbins), Laura Linney, while being strong in her own role, is a little underwritten throughout and her sudden change at the end is a little inexplicable though chilling and recalls Lady MacBeth's speeches towards MacBeth.

A very bleak take on the notion that some people never learn from the mistakes they make in life and how those mistakes come back to rip their own life apart in the most subtle of ways, one of the most emotionally dark movies of 2003 and completely deserving of its Oscar wins (for Best Actor and Supporting Actor, a feat repeated in this years Oscars for 2004) and nods.
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10/10
Long Live the King?
BrandtSponseller12 February 2005
After three eleven year-olds from a close-knit lower middle class Boston suburb undergo a tragic experience where one is abducted and abused for four days, their lives diverge. The abducted one never overcomes the emotional trauma, another begins a life of crime, and the third becomes a cop. None ever venture very far from the neighborhood. When tragedy strikes again, their lives are gradually brought back together on a collision course that leads to some unexpected results.

Mystic River is a surprisingly dark film, with a controversial denouement. It is masterfully directed, acted, shot, edited, lit and scored. It is a mostly humorless and occasionally difficult realist drama, that will undoubtedly affect most viewers emotionally in a variety of ways--you may cry, you may become angry with at least one character and the lack of just deserts, and you may find it a bit depressing, although producer/director/composer Clint Eastwood and scripter Brian Helgeland do through in a relatively minor glimmer of hope/happiness at the very end.

Not that I tend to agree with awards organizations, but it should be no surprise that Mystic River has fine acting. A bulk of its many awards and nominations, including two Oscar victories, were for on screen performances. What is less recognized is the positive effect that the locations, cinematography, lighting and score have on the atmosphere of the film. Kokayi Ampah found the perfect, generic, metropolitan lower middle class neighborhoods, buildings and bars. It could be any slightly depressing, but maybe about to gentrify, suburb of Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, or any number of at least Northeastern and Midwestern U.S. cities. Tom Stern's cinematography is continually, subtly inventive. Just check out the shot of Sean Penn where shadows from a railing form symbolic jail bars on the wall behind him. The lighting tends to the late 1990s/early 2000s look that is more monochromatic and leaning-towards blue. There are a lot of well-placed shadows, often creating a chiaroscuro look. Eastwood's score is understated but very effective. And how can you not like a film where three sexy girls dance on top of a bar to jazz fusion?

The story is absorbing. There is an unexpected (to me, at least--I try to watch films the first time knowing as little about them as possible) mystery angle that is effectively sustained until almost the end. I haven't read Dennis Lehane's novel yet, but I just ordered it after seeing the film--the film piqued my interest enough to want to explore more. But the most interesting part of the story to me, at least, was the extremely gray depiction of Penn's character, Jimmy Markum. Markum is revealed to be largely criminal, and not quite likable in his attitude towards his daughter (he doesn't respect her individuality, even though she's actually an adult). Yet at the same time, he is compared by at least one character to a "king", and in many ways, he is treated as one in the neighborhood. This may or may not be meant more metaphorically by the character saying it, but it is possible to read much of the film as being about a traditional king trying to live in modern day metropolitan suburbia. In some historical and cultural contexts, surely Markum's behavior in the film would have a more noble sheen, including his "mistake". This is perhaps why poetic justice never arrives, and instead, the character is seen as contented, with his queen and court by his side, being regaled with a parade instead. In modern contexts, many kings' behavior would not be so noble, and instead we'd notice more the injustices done to the peasantry and sympathize with them. Markum's character cannot be depicted more literally as royalty, as if he were far removed from the socio-economic status of the film's peasantry (although we find out eventually that he has more money to spare than most folks in his neighborhood), because it would be instead read as a moral tale of economic disparity as is exists solely in modern times. Putting everyone on a level playing field, more or less, is the only way to create a parable of how kings would be perceived, solely in terms of their decisions and actions, in our era.

Of course, there is more to the film than that, and it's not the only interpretation possible (in fact, it probably seems very left field to many readers), but it's worth pointing out not only as something literally interesting to contemplate, but to show the kind of storytelling depth that is contained in Mystic River--a film you should not miss.
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5/10
Very Problematic
MO-665 February 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Glad to see there are other disappointed viewers of Mystic River. This is the movie that could have been good based on the story. But the actual script, directing and yes, acting , are off just enough so that the parts to do not add up to an exceptional whole. Sean Penn was really "ACTING" as hard as he could, Marcia Gay Harden seemed overly fidgety and pathetic. SPOILERS: The biggest weaknesses of this movie are the story elements- why did Sean Penn's relationship with his daughter seem incestuous and yet that was never examined, why is Tim Robbins in a gay cruising area when he attacks and kills a man, what does Kevin Bacon's estranged wife have to do with any of this (except to confirm that it's a "happy" ending for him), why does Laura Linney suddenly turn into Lady Macbeth at the end- excuse me, was Lady Macbeth even in this film before the end? And the main thread of the movie- who killed Sean Penn's daughter- oops, it was just a couple of foolish kids and they don't know why they did it. Oops, sorry. The potential for tragedy is so untapped here- the little kid that actually committed the murder should have done it for revenge- Sean Penn killed his father years before! Hello, why is there no connection here other than a weak coincidence that up til then had been the PLOT! Clint Eastwood dropped the ball big time.
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3/10
A hateful film! (SPOILER)
steve_sims123 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I just finished watching this film, and I'm upset. I of course had heard the hype, and was looking forward to watching this. This is nearly a good film, but in the end I have come away from it feeling sick.

The end message from this film seems to be that it's OK to kill people. Obviously that's a gross simplification, but that's the feeling I'm left with. All of the main characters and most of the supporting ones are fairly hateful disgusting people. This is bleak stuff.

The one character you believe is OK, Sean, the cop, turns out in the end to have apparently protected his friend Tommy from an earlier murder charge, and seems to let him get away with a second murder of Dave, their mutual friend.

Sure, most of the performances are pretty good, although Sean Penn as usual isn't entirely convincing. Watching this move up until the very end I had hope that it was going to turn out OK, but no, the credits rolled and the guilty walked free, because apparently it's OK to kill somebody that you suspect (with no real evidence) of having killed your child. So long as you act strong everything will be OK. Another child is left without a father, a wife without a husband, and there are no consequences for this. What utter tripe.

A final scene or two at the end with Tommy getting arrested would have fixed this movie and made it into something great. Even him getting run over by a random passing car would have been an improvement. Instead I'm left feeling sick, and wanting Mr. Eastwood to give me my $6 rental fee back for subjecting me to such tripe.
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9/10
A Tragic Story of the Loss of the Youth in a Contemporary Classic
claudio_carvalho26 June 2004
Twenty years ago, the boys Jimmy Markun, Sean Devine and Dave Boyle are neighbors and pals, playing hockey on the street. One day, Dave is kidnapped by two men, being sexually abused, but escapes from them four days later. In the present days, each one of them followed one way in their lives: Jimmy (Sean Penn) is married with Annabeth Markum (Laura Linney), has three daughters and has a small business. Sean (Kevin Bacon) is a detective, and his pregnant wife left him six months ago. His colleague is the detective Whitey Powers (Laurence Fishburne). And Dave (Tim Robbins) is a traumatized man, married with Celeste Boyle (Marcia Gay Harden) and having a young son. When the nineteen years old daughter of Jimmy, Katie Markum (Emmy Rossum), is found dead in the neighborhood, the three friends in childhood meet each other again, in the investigation of the murder. A tragic event happens in the conclusion of this investigation. This movie is excellent. Yesterday, I saw it on DVD and I was impressed with the direction of Clint Eastwood and the performance of the cast. It is almost impossible to highlight one actor or actress, but I was stunned with the performance of Sean Penn. It is a film based on the acting, and not on special effects, shootings or race of cars. I was very impressed, since the tragic story of the loss of the youth is very real, full of human flaws, disturbances, prejudice and judgements. The destiny of this movie in the future may be to be considered a contemporary classic. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): `Sobre Meninos e Lobos' (`About Boys and Wolves')
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1/10
A complete mess--don't waste your time or money
emenslaw1 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
*******SPOILERS BELOW******* So, it was the mute kid and his friend that did it? And they accidently shot her and then had to shoot her again and beat her with a hockey stick so she wouldn's tell? Give me a break. What a let down. What a slow, painful way to spend 2 1/4 hours. Tim Robbins, one of my favorites, was so miscast. What was the point of this movie? And the conservation at the end where Jimmy's wife tells him he is strong and then beds him? What was that all about? I wish I had seen Kill Bill for the third time instead.
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1/10
Great intrigue leads to an ending that makes no sense
tweetyaroo8 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Just like the Matrix trilogy, a great start that hits a wall; The story is suspenseful as we find more about the players in this murder mystery. By the end, we have people killed for no reason, the murder motive isn't plausible, everyone feels good about it, and the police do nothing. Whoopty do. Can't believe all the praise lauded onto this film. The story could have been so much more meaningful had Penn finally done something to help his friend Robbins after abandoning him in childhood. This could have been a great story of redemption but instead we get a pseudo-mafia spin in order to wrap the film up, and a life-affirming message that jumping to conclusions and killing people is the raison d'être of the 21st century cinema.
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1/10
Pointless
dlandon20009 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I would say that there are spoilers written here but anyone with an IQ above 50 can see the entire "plot" of the movie after the first half hour. I have not read the book and can only hope that it is much better because the movie is tiresome and lacks substance. None of the characters develop as adults, the movie is a collection of static characters who depict a deplorable existence and none of them are amiable or deserve your support or interest.

I know that "critics" are in love with sean penn but for me his character was completely unbelievable, one minute he is uncontrollable with grief but then while verifying the body he is cold as a fish, hamming it up the whole movie.

Not worth the 4.50 for the rental
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1/10
Zero
cyrilmorong30 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
WARNING!! MAJOR SPOILERS!!

I don't know what the movie was supposed about. I liked the first three-fourths of it, but I cannot recommend it. I think it is full of logical inconsistencies, especially involving the characters.

Take the Kevin Bacon character: At one point, he tells his partner Laurence Fishburne that he will put the cuffs on his friend faster than Fishburne will if his friend (Tim Robbins) is guilty. This establishes him as a guy who puts duty above friendship. So why does he not arrest Sean Penn at the end of the movie when he knows Penn killed Robbins? Either he does his duty or he doesn't.

Take Fishburne's character: What happens to him at the end of the movie? Where is he? He would be the first to investigate the missing Robbins character, whom we know is killed by Penn. Somebody would be investigating his disappearance. Is it just an unsolved murder or disappearance?

Penn's character: He gets established as a loving, caring father who went straight after serving time because he loved his daughter. We see him say to his daughter's picture something like `I know I contributed to your death but I don't know how.' He is by himself, so that should be an indication of a caring, thoughtful guy, which, to me, he turns out not to be by the end of the movie. He is cold and ruthless. In movies, when we are shown characters doing something alone, it is an indication of what they truly are. That is like a contract the movie makes with us. He also knows that Robbins was abused as a kid. Yet he kills Robbins based only on circumstantial evidence. Robbins's wife thinks that he killed Penn's daughter. But Penn has got to be smart enough to want more evidence. Then he kills Robbins in front of 3 guys who will be surely grilled and leaned on by the cops because it is well known they associate with him. A bartender also saw them all together. And Penn would have to know he was a prime suspect. Wouldn't a guy like Penn be shrewder? Wouldn't he late till later, and have it done when he has an alibi?

Robbins's wife, Marcia Gay Harden: She seems to be a pathetic character by the end of the movie. At first she seems caring, consoling Penn's wife after the murder. But she suspects her husband murdered Penn's daughter and tells Penn and not the police. Who is that dumb? Did she not want her husband to get a fair trial?

Laura Linney's character: She is Penn's wife. We don't see her or get much sense of her until the end of the movie. Then, as others have said, she turns out to be Lady Macbeth. She tells her husband Penn that it is good that you do what you have to for your family. Why could that not simply mean turning Robbins over to the police? She then tells this cold-blooded mobster of a husband that he could run Boston!! Then they roll over on the bed and have sex?!?! Only cold, ruthless people do that. Why should I care about them?

Coincidences: Robbins just happens to kill a guy molesting a child the same night Penn's daughter is accidentally killed? And Robbins just happened to be in the last bar that Penn's daughter was in? And Penn kills Robbins just before Kevin Bacon's character, a cop, tells Penn he has the real killers? These seem like very cheap plot devices. Too improbable to be believed. How about Penn and Bacon? They end up being very awful guys, yet they were not the one abducted or molested. Sure it happened to their friend. But it is too much to believe they would be so affected.

The characters for most of the movie seemed sympathetic. But at the end, none of them, except possibly for Robbins's character that got into a car as a child with a child molester who pretended to be a cop (Penn and Bacon were there, too but did not get in) are sympathetic at the end of the movie. Penn gets back together with his estranged wife and seems to be happy with his life, so why bother investigating the murder of his friend Robbins even though he knows Penn killed him? YUK. At a parade, he makes his hand look like a gun and gives a sort of fake POW! pointed at Penn, like you're the man buddy. Or this is as much as I will do to you. And we see Penn surrounded by two or three of his thug henchman. Penn seems to have no remorse for killing Robbins. Linney gives Harden a sort of so what look, I don't care what happened to you. Harden walks around looking very sad and pathetic. Penn and Bacon don't seem to care how sad Robbins's son must be. We can see how sad he is a float with other little leaguers. There seems to be no reason why we should care about the characters played by Bacon, Harden, Penn or Linney. They are all despicable and unlikable people.

And it is not okay somehow that Robbins is dead because he killed a child molester, either. If I were on a jury trying Robbins for that murder, it would be hard to give him the death penalty. The movie seems to be saying that was some sort of justice that he got killed. Yet his murder of the molester was not premeditated like Penn's murder of him was. Or the conscious decision of Bacon to be okay with Penn killing Robbins. And the way Penn killed Robbins is brutal, painful and demeaning. Penn treats him in a very mean spirited way. The movie seems to be saying this is okay. Again, YUK.
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1/10
Bogus 'tragedy'
kinolieber3 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
**SPOILER**

Mystic River is being accepted in the U.S. as a serious, tragic tale of the terrible consequences of violence and abuse.

What it really is, is a manipulative revenge tale about the sensitive inner life of a vigilante murderer.

I was appalled by Laura Linney's big scene at the end where she praises the murderer for his kinglike qualities. I think it's in there not so much for its ironic 'Lady Macbeth' horror, as for its balancing effect on all those moviegoers who actually agree with her and see the Sean Penn character as flawed but heroic: a kinder, gentler Dirty Harry. There's a reason why the film makers eliminated a crucial moment from the book: In the book, the Kevin Bacon character promises the Marcia Gay Harden character that he will prove that the Sean Penn character committed murder and that he will prosecute him for it. Instead, Eastwood plays it cozy, leaving the legal consequences of the vigilantism ambiguous, just in case his core audience happens to think that what Sean Penn's character did was wrong, maybe, but understandable and justified. And after all, who got hurt? Just some loser pervert, right? Or as the film describes him, "damaged goods".

What a load of horse manure.
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Mystic River is a well acted and well directed American classic.
egipson24 August 2004
When I finally got to watch Mystic River, I was mesmerized by the acting of the ensemble cast. I watched this movie twice, alone and again with my husband. The content of the movie is relevant in any time frame. Upon watching it the second time I noticed "small" things that tied the movie and its characters together. Forgiveness, no I would not classify any of the characters as forgiving. It is very clear that Dave probably never receive counseling for the unspeakable crime done to him as a boy, Jimmy never really let go of his "on edge nerve" and Sean remains the responsible friend but not afraid to face life's messes. To watch a human drama unfold with such sad consequences and heavy retribution on one hand and little to no retribution on the other hand is a depiction that life is not always fair and some of us receive the bounty of life, while others get the smaller piece of pie.

This movie was well acted and well directed. I will never forget Sean Penn's portrayal of Jimmy in this star ensemble cast.
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4/10
Spoilers for an over-hyped mediocre movie ahead
MafiaSquirrel26 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Your bitter reviewer walked into the theater with high expectations, I had to beg my fiancee to see this, promising her the masterpiece that the hype said it was. It was, to put it gently, not as good as an average episode of "Law and Order". The characters that weren't overdone or hopeless cliches (e.g. Celeste) were given no consistent motivations or satisfactory explanations for their actions (Jimmy, Sean). The movie waffles on the strength and extent of the boys friendship; Are they still friends? If so, do Dave and Sean know that Jimmy is a small time mafioso? Is all of Boston related to each other, at least six of the major and minor characters are cousins, including Jimmy and Dave (by marriage I assume) yet supposedly they barely know each other anymore. Celeste was a horrible character, first the whole film she looked like she'd scream and cry if her kid or anyone else sneezed. Then she sells out her husband to Jimmy, someone who will most likely at least beat him within an inch of his life if not kill him and then sells JIMMY out to Sean after the situation she brought about has climaxed. This is not a woman you want to go hunting with. And the murderers, where do I begin? Sean said they HAD NO MOTIVE. This is bad writing. They just wanted to play tough guys and the random passerby, the victim, just HAPPENS to be his brother's girlfriend and not only that, the daughter of the hood that his father ratted out when he was most likely two and sent up for a stretch. The kid had no way of knowing, and I give the movie credit for not suggesting it, that Jimmy murdered his father. To top it all off, if this was a random act and an accident that she died, why did they abuse the body? Like I said, bad writing. Kevin Bacon's last five minutes in the movie is on repeat somewhere in actors and filmmakers Hell. He goes from hearing about his friend's death, someone he obviously feels indebted to, to laughing and smiling on the phone to his creepy, stalking wife. He follows this gem with the "finger gun" during the parade with a bizarre smirk on his face. Methinks making movies like "Wild Things" has damaged the acting center of his brain. This movie is nothing what critics or the hype said it would be, there are better films by all these actors and this director, both in front of and behind the camera. Go rent those. Movies like this make orphans cry.
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4/10
Tired plot devices enhanced with overwrought acting don't solve this mystery.
tetractys21 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
The last time I saw Sean Penn's work, he was taking himself far too seriously in the tragically flawed 21 Grams--a depressing and simple story jazzed up by cutting into pieces and presenting them out of order. Mystic River is a depressing and simple story jazzed up by over-acting and music (written by Clint Eastwood) that sounds like a grade-school etude exercise. Why is it that contemporary auteurs believe that lack of a sensible plot, comic relief, and meaningful themes can be overcome through extreme close-ups of actors mimicking emotional turmoil, lingering for eternities as Penn's eyebrow twitches or Robbins pouts. Essentially, Penn thinks his old pal Robbins whacked his daughter, so he whacks Robbins. Oops, made a mistake. That's the story. The backstory involves childhood sexual abuse, and has nothing to do with the plot. It's tacked on to the side with a few pins related to where Robbins really was (whacking a child molester) and why he was such a loser (haunted, of course). Unfortunately, the film does not address in any meaningful fashion the issue of child molestation. It also does not handle the murder mystery very well, since the actual killers of Penn's daughter turn out to be related to Penn in a way that would make a hack writer blush with shame. Mystic River is also riddled with gangster flick clichés most writers discarded decades ago -- the Savage (!) brothers who do all the dirty work, the crusty wife who encourages Penn's criminality like Lady Macbeth, the cop from the old neighborhood (Kevin Bacon) with mixed feelings about the gangsters he investigates, and the (old man) river (running through it) that serves as "silent witness," and so on. This is an altogether mindless, humorless and simple flick all done up with production values and more meaningful looks than a Mexican soap opera.
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1/10
Worse dog I've not seen for quite a while
john_keck13 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Contains Spoilers Forget about the (stupid) ending. Even technically this film was a clunker.

The Hollywood buzz about this movie is that it's gonna win a lot of Academy Awards. The real reason behind the buzz is that (1) all the right stars are in the flick (e.g., how many degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon? Can you get more P.C. than Penn, Robbins, and Linney?) and (2) the morally ambiguity of the film gives it that cachet of being 'intellectual,' 'edgy,' and 'pushing boundaries' (translation: the same old trash). It all boils down to being in tune with political fashion. P.T. Barnum was right. This film is gonna clean up at the Oscars.

Okay, so I'll have to admit that the acting wasn't bad. Problem is that there were no characters for the actors to work with. I really didn't care about any of these folks because they had no endearing traits and and there weren't any substantial relationships between them... basically just a bunch of selfish low-lifes. Even Sean the cop (Kevin Bacon) was basically an amoral loser.

Now, liking or at least identifying with the characters builds interest in the film, but also makes us care about them, so that the emotion flows naturally out of the film. Mr. Eastwood compensates for the lack of natural emotion by employing the typical manipulative Hollywood histrionics. For example, we're supposed to Feel for Jimmy (Sean Penn)when he finds out that his (floozy) daughter Katie is dead. Problem: Jimmy's a two-bit jerk of a thug with an overworked Boston accent and we've only seen him with his daughter for 5 seconds: who COULD care about him or his daughter? Solution: Have him bawling and struggling against a cadre of cops to see his daughter's corpse; swell the Operatic Music; pull the camera back and overhead to give a sense of The Enormity of his loss. Voila! Instant emotion! This was just one of several examples in which the direction was so overblown I couldn't help but think that Mr. Eastwood had no concept of real emotion.

Even worse than the screenplay and direction was the soundtrack. Throughout the whole film the word that kept coming to me about the music was "incongruous"; it basically almost never fit with the film (I guess that makes it edgy?). The final credits reveal that Mr. Eastwood, that man for all seasons, wrote the score. I could have guessed the writer was an amateur; now I also know he was an egoist.

There even seemed to be problems with continuity. The mother of Katie's boyfriend Brendan tells her son that he's better off without her. A couple scenes later Brendan's deaf brother apparently repeats this same comment to him and Brendan acts as if he's surprised and shocked that she said it! Also, in the climatic scene we learn the identity and motive of the killer. In the following scene, Sean gives Jimmy an entirely different motive for the killing. Maybe I'm just dense and maybe Sean had a reason for obfuscating, but I didn't see it. (POSSIBLE SPOILER: If the first motive was right, how did the killer track down Katie so efficiently? If the second motive was the true one: wasn't it just too incredible a coincidence that, of all the people in Boston, the killer just HAPPENS upon that one particular person?)

Of course, after Sean's conversation with Jimmy, Sean's estranged wife finally calls and talks to him--out of the blue! Why? Explanation: the story needed a sense of victory at that point, and since the plot itself didn't provide it, well, we'll just tack on some portable catharsis!

Others who've reviewed this film liked the 'surprise' scene near the end between Penn and Laura Linney. I thought it stank. This Revelation about Linney's character was out of the blue. I guess we're supposed to chalk it up to Surprise Ending. In reality it's just bad writing: a real surprise is when, looking back, you should have and could have known, but just didn't put the pieces together, for example, _The Usual Suspects_ and _The Sixth Sense_. This scene just had NOTHING to do with the rest of the film!

**Potential SPOILER (heck, the whole film's a spoiler)** Also, Dave (Robbins) was apparently the scapegoat for all the bad things that happened in the film. (Perhaps 'pincushion' is better?) Poor bastard. And to top it off, I just didn't give a tinker's dam about poor Dave! He was a complete loser from start to finish: he had no redeeming qualities, his wife didn't love him and neither did his "friends." If the film is supposed to Make Us Think, it would have done more effectively if the audience actual felt a loss when Dave got it (again). **END SPOILER**

The rule of thumb is that if you have a great screenplay you just MIGHT get a good film. The bottom line on this film: THE SCREENPLAY SUCKED. And even great direction (which it didn't have) couldn't have redeemed this film.
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1/10
Tragic Travesty of Tragedy - Is this really what you meant, Mr Eastwood???
kashuu111 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The nauseating accolades that this monstrous movie has received just prove that Hollywood does its job very well. Throw in some brilliant actors, clever cinematography, a melodramatic score and an iconic director, and voilà - suspension of disbelief - of good sense - of morality itself. Perhaps it is the result of playing in too many Westerns in which there is no rule of law. Mr. Eastwood, for whom I had the greatest respect UNTIL I saw this film, seems to advocate a return to those times when we settled our differences with our guns and with impunity.

I sat through the bleak, depressing story, realizing that there was going to be no "Happy Hollywood Ending." But I was totally unprepared for one that completely exonerated the most foul deeds of the even more unsanitary characters. And that speech at the end by Laura Linney just served to sink the depths of the female characters to subterranean levels. Marcia Gay Harden's character, however, previously did much of the sinking when she literally put a contract out on her husband's life by telling her totally unfounded suspicions to the murdering thug played by Sean Penn.

Brilliant acting notwithstanding – an accolade that is also debatable except in the case of Tim Robbins – how can a movie that validates violence, murder, selfishness, lack of responsibility and consequences, be given any awards of any kind???? What kind of society are we, if we can become so dazzled by Clint Eastwood and his chosen actors that we miss the gaping hole where the film's moral center should be???? Or rather than absence, the film's moral center is one that is so amoral that it should be equally impossible to miss. Yet miss it so many of us have done.

If the intent of the movie was to shock us into outrage at the gross miscarriage of justice perpetrated at the end of the film, at the utter lack of sensitivity that the characters demonstrate towards the victims, then I would praise it as one of the best films of all time. But the message I received was not one so enlightened. And the utter horror – of the amoral message as well as of the blindness and/or acceptance of most of the public – totally undermined any redemption that might otherwise have been found in the dramatization by Tim Robbin's character of the long-lasting and wide-ranging effects of child molestation. His young friends did not protect him as a boy. They compounded this failing as adults. And we, the public, abandon him in like manner, when we honor those who would dishonor and destroy him.
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9/10
Simply stunning
teyhow27 May 2005
This movie is a kick in the gut. Rarely is such a brilliant cast assembled, and even when it happens, rarely do they act like this. Tom Guiry (very impressive), Tim Robbins and Sean Penn show emotion that directors don't often stick in. And it comes off flawlessly. During a scene with Marcia Gay-Harden and Tim Robbins crying in their kitchen, there is an energy coming off of the screen that strikes you right in the chest. Which is really the way the whole movie works. It grabs you and shakes you, and makes you watch even when it can be painful to do so. The only reason that this film didn't win best picture is Return of the King. Any other year, and Mystic River has it. Eastwood's finest moment. Check it out--you won't be disappointed.
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7/10
What happened to, "My mule don't like you laughin' at him"?
rmax3048235 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Clint Eastwood is a remarkable guy. As he eases into and through his 70s, he's taken more chances than ever, unlike Howard Hawks and so many other artists, who repeat themselves as they age. He's explored new milieus in each of his later movies -- a Western with no heroes, women's boxing, a disappearing ethnic neighborhood, the tragedy of heroism, the social elite of an alien Southern city, an even more alien world of doomed Japanese warriors. And he's done it all with a relaxed grace on happy sets. Not all are successful but each embodies an ambiguity that's stunning. They're adult movies, made by an adult for adults. Kids aren't going to be cheering the good guys because there are no good guys.

This is the one about the kind of ethnic neighborhood in which everyone seems to know everyone else. The kind that's rapidly disappearing, in this case Boston Irish. (The New England accents are just marked enough to fall short of parodies.) Three men have grown up together, their lives interwoven in various, rather complex ways -- Kevin Bacon, Sean Penn, and Tim Robbins. Bacon has grown into a police officer. Penn is a thug who's spent time in the slams. Robbins is a tormented wretch. The story is hung on the peg of a murder. Penn's young daughter is beaten and shot to death. Bacon probes the case. Robbins, by coincidence, has been involved in a murder that has nothing to do with the death of Penn's daughter but which makes him look guilty nonetheless. Penn, a man of violence, becomes convinced of Robbin's culpability and murders him. When the true perps are revealed, Bacon realizes that Penn will never admit to the mistaken killing of their mutual friend Robbins, but Bacon will need to try pinning him for it, so the two men are now at odds with one another.

That's the plot. The real story deals with the exploration of character and of how we are shaped by events that happened long ago, events that we may not even remember with any clarity. The pacing is deliberate, the dialog naturalistic, the mistakes human in their nature, and the location shooting is realistic. (No tours of Harvard Yard or the Old North Church -- just working-class neighborhoods.) In addition to the three principals, Eastwood has assembled a fine cast that includes Marcia Gay Hardin, Eli Wallach, and Laura Linney, among others. None of them are glamorized in any way. Closeups reveal Robbin's stubble, Linney's papules, Penn's nevis, and Bacon's blemishes. But none of it comes across as cruel, any more than our looking in the mirror every morning is an act of cruelty.

I guess one of the things that's most impressive about Eastwood's articulation of these settings is that none of them was ever his own. As a child of the depression he followed his father around California, mostly working at gas stations. He's reserved and not especially articulate in interviews. His signature (which I saw on the menu of a Chinese restaurant in Monterey) is the drawling set of loops of a high school student more interested in athletics than aesthetics. A very rich man, he voted for H. Ross Perot. He was never a cowboy, never an effete homosexual snob, never a Boston Irish kid, but he manages to make these characters come alive for us. Who would have dreamed that there was an embryonic artist maturing under that shabby poncho?
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9/10
Chilling, effective and real
jofitz2724 April 2005
After a while, one has come to expect mediocrity from Clint Eastwood. "Blood Work" "Space Cowboys" and "Sudden Impact" all shining examples of this. But what he has here is true; sophisticated, intricate and rewarding. Viewing is definitely recommended.

Three boys, Dave (Tim Robbins) Jimmy (Sean Penn) and Sean (Kevin Bacon) are reunited after the murder of Jimmy's nineteen year-old daughter. Immediately, a whodunit case arrives. Sounds average, dunnit?...

No. It's much more than average. What might appear as a normal murder mystery is more. The acting, particularly from Robbins and Penn, is immaculate. Robbins is still recovering from child sexual abuse along time ago. Penn, so realistically and amazingly, mourns over the loss of his daughter. Laurence Fishburne (playing cop Whitey) is as smart talking as ever, whilst Kevin Bacon gives a solid performance as the homicide cop investigating the case.

Though the film becomes a bit uneven towards the end, this tough, brutal and uncompromising; but still, a masterpiece, and the best work Eastwood as done in years.

Final Analysis: 9 out of 10
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8/10
The ties that bind - for the good, the bad, and the in-between.
Pedro_H6 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Three young friends play in the Boston street. They start to misbehave and a car approaches and a man climbs out looking like a cop, acting like a cop and seeming to have police ID. He beckons one boy over. He says they are going to take the boy somewhere (home maybe?) - the others say nothing and look on, glad it isn't them.

However the man is not a cop, he is a child molester/sadist and has taken him to rape and quite possibly later murder. However, several horrific days later, the boy escapes to freedom - nevertheless what happened to him and the two others will never leave them. It marks every day of the rest of their lives: and for Dave (the kidnapped boy) the wounds run very deep in to his flesh.

I am frightened of saying it, but Clint Eastwood is now America's best director: and not only that, he is one of the bravest. This is not the most obvious film. Dark, mean and giving little security blanket to hang on to. Thankfully he has assembled the best cast anyone could ask for and all three co-leads (the three street boys that go on to be men - Sean Penn (Jimmy), Tim Robins (Dave) and Kevin Bacon (Sean)) are excellent. Also worth a mention is Laurence Fishburne as a laconic black cop with a firm but fair attitude.

This film is not really much about women nor is it flattering to them. The later actions of Dave's wife (Marcia Gay Harden) make little sense on any level unless clues lie on unfilmed pages of the Dennis Lehane novel. Further discussion of it would be a spoiler.

The plot could (falsely) read as a whodunit or thriller: Jimmy's (an ex-con who now runs an convenience store) daughter is murdered and two main suspects quickly emerge. A boyfriend who was about to elope with her and the former abused boy Dave who had seen the girl behaving slightly wildly in a bar on the night she was killed. To make things worse Dave had come home late with a stab wound from that very night - he was "stabbed by a mugger," so he says, but the cover story makes no sense.

To complicate things further Sean (Bacon) is now a cop on this very case with female problems of his own. Thankfully they are mostly off screen because this film has enough problems for several movies. He is no longer open friends with Jimmy, but clearly he is viewed as more than just an ex-con trying to make good.

People that have read the book say that it remains true to its pages and that maybe is the reason why things happen slowly and the end is not an absolute full stop. The thriller part of exercise creaks like an old door because we have to believe that the Dave incident was a giant coincidence or he was - somehow - involved. And if so, why?

I was intrigued as to why the three central characters should stay loyal to the area. What keeps them? Especially Dave who everyone views as damaged goods and not a crime victim. Even his own wife. As I said before, Jimmy runs a store (where did he get the money - from crime?) but has a criminal past and maybe even a criminal future if some of the people he is around are anything to go by. This is not a film that believes in total revelation.

I am also puzzled by when the "present day" is meant to be. There is confusion about whose blood was found in a certain place which would have been solved easily by DNA examination. They talk only of blood groups.Hmmm...

Despite its many faults this is serious and skillful film making and while I agree with another reviewer - that television does this kind of the thing better - that isn't to say that this isn't a welcome addition to the cannon of believable (in outline form) street drama involving imperfect people trying to make the best of things in very difficult circumstances.
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will sean pull the trigger? tragedy, 2 mutes
jonnyss18 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILERS!!! I did not enjoy this movie, but i've thought a lot about it afterwards, and i too feel that it's a great movie. several viewers commented that sean's willingness to look the other way at dave's murder feels out of character. what do others make of the moment at the closing parade when sean looks at jimmy, points a finger like a gun and mimes pulling the trigger? is he simply referencing their childhood games or reiterating that he knows jimmy killed dave? i thought he might well be acknowledging that, sadly, he'd shortly have to come after jimmy.

many viewers note the film's allusion to classic tragedy, especially macbeth, with laura linney in the role of lady macbeth. i noted also that the revenge for jimmy's murder of ray harris comes via the hand of...ray harris (he's not known as junior). to me this feels not heavy-handed but classic greek or shakespearean fate.

by the way, there are not one but TWO mutes in the film: sean's estranged wife (yes i know she's not really mute, but she sure acts that way) and young ray. certainly these might represent the import of the unspoken past - especially dave's failure to confide in his wife. but i wonder if the mutes allude to some classical tragedy, and, if so, if erudite fan might fill in the reference.
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1/10
Visual Gag Reflex
clint-cole12 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Let me nutshell the movie for you: A little boy gets raped. The little boy grows up. A teenage daughter of a mob boss gets murdered. Then the little boy, all grown up gets murdered by the mob boss. Then the mob boss finds out he was wrong in murdering the guy, moves on. A cop also knows about the whole incident, but decides to overlook it since they were all friends.

While this same plot if directed properly could have ended up as a fabulous movie with elements of irony and dark humor, Clint Eastwood fails to capture anything but disgusting acts of pointless violence.

I took a date to see this movie in theaters and haven't been that disgusted and embarrassed in a long time.
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